Asia

Foreign workers share their stories at forum to celebrate International Migrants Day

SINGAPORE – Since March this year, Mr Syakirin Ahmad has spent only 15 days with his wife and two daughters in Johor Baru.

The 27-year-old Malaysian, who has been working in Singapore as a courier for the last three years, used to commute across the Causeway daily but now has to live apart from his family due to the Covid-19 pandemic and border restrictions.

His elder daughter is 1½ years old and his younger daughter was born on Jan 12 this year. To stay connected with his family, he video calls them almost every day.

Mr Syakirin was one of three foreign worker speakers who shared their stories on Sunday (Dec 27) at 2020 Reflections: Voices of our Migrants, a forum organised by non-profit start-up Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre and co-operative society A Good Space.

The other two speakers were Ms Aminiyati Marthyn, 46, a domestic worker from Indonesia, and Mr Sojib Ahmed, 28, a construction safety coordinator from Bangladesh.

The event at Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre in Yishun was held in celebration of International Migrants Day on Dec 18, and aimed to allow participants to listen to and understand foreign workers’ experiences.

The participants consisted of members of the public as well as migrant workers and domestic workers. Held in a hybrid format, the forum had participants at the Yishun venue as well as others tuning in via Zoom.

After the forum, there was a collective art-making segment by the workers.

In June, the Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre and non-profit arts company 3Pumpkins, with other organisations, launched a community art project for the migrant worker community, called the Stay Home Quilt. 

This saw some 500 migrant workers in dormitories, Malaysian workers and local residents invited to express themselves through sewing patches. Some of the pieces were then stitched together.

The works are on display at the Tzu Chi Humanities Youth Centre until Tuesday.

Mr Syakirin also took part in this project. He said he sewed the words “I love SG” and “I miss home” on his patch.

“During my stay here, my friends and I received a lot of help from Singaporeans and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) such as Ghifari Event Management,” he said.

“The help we got includes daily free meals, clothes, prayer equipment and food for breaking fast. It eased our burden… I am very grateful for their contributions.”


A visitor looking at the Stay Home Quilt at the Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre on Dec 27, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, attended the event on Sunday.

He told reporters: “The one positive thing (about the pandemic) is that it has really shined the spotlight on the issues our migrant friends are facing… They do very important work for all of us here in Singapore but the issue is they are often invisible in society.

“So I think it’s important for events like this, for people to hear the stories directly from our migrant friends, understand what they are going through and the difficulties they are facing.”

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